Call to pardon miners’ strike convictions

Members of the NUM miners' union picket line clash with police outside Bilston Glen colliery during the miners strike  in June 1984.
Members of the NUM miners' union picket line clash with police outside Bilston Glen colliery during the miners strike in June 1984.
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An independent review of policing during the 1984-5 miners’ strike has been asked to consider pardons for those convicted.

The review group, which is currently examining the impact of policing on mining communities, is due to submit an interim report to the Scottish Government later this month.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay called on the review to include a recommendation that those who received a criminal record should be pardoned.

Scores of miners were convicted during the strike, with an estimated 500 arrests in Scotland during the dispute. Mr Findlay said Scottish miners were disproportionately affected, with 30 per cent of sackings after arrest occurring north of the Border, despite Scots making up just 10 per cent of the mining workforce.

Those who were arrested during the dispute were sacked ­without redundancy pay following their conviction.

Mr Findlay said: “Mining communities across Britain suffered at the hands of politicised and often brutal policing as Margaret Thatcher and her Tory government used the power of the state to crush working people.

“Scottish miners suffered disproportionately from these underhand tactics during this struggle.

“Many of these workers lost not just their jobs and income, but their relationships, their homes, and many their mental and physical health.”

Mr Findlay said that many were blacklisted, while others “went to their graves the victims of a miscarriage of justice”.

He added: “The review of these convictions should consider pardons, and ensure that politicised convictions are thrown into the dustbin of history where they belong.”

The miners’ strike took place after Mrs Thatcher announced plans to close a number of pits which were deemed “inefficient”.

Those involved in the dispute have long believed the police were used for political ends by the government, with pickets arrested on trumped-up charges and many blacklisted for years afterwards.

Announcing the review last year, then Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said the strike had cast a shadow over some areas of the country which, more than 30 years on, continue to suffer from a “corrosive and alienating” sense of having being hurt and wronged.

Declassified documents released in 2016 showed the Thatcher government believed an inquiry into the policing of the strike would become a “witch hunt”.

According to the minutes of a 1985 meeting, then Home Secretary Leon Brittan wanted to avoid “any form of inquiry”.

In 2016, Amber Rudd ruled out holding an inquiry into the so-called Battle of Orgreave, when thousands of miners and police were involved in violent clashes at a coking plant in South Yorkshire.

It followed claims of an alleged cover-up after it emerged that senior officers involved in the Hillsborough disaster five years later were also involved in the aftermath of Orgreave.